The LPGA on Tuesday night announced that it will not hold the Blue Bay LPGA in March on China's Hainan Island.
"The 2023 Blue Bay LPGA, originally scheduled for March 9-12, is cancelled further to the guidance of our partners, the China Golf Association, due to ongoing COVID-19 related matters," the LPGA said in a statement. "We thank Hainan Greentown Blue Bay, the China Golf Association, CLPGA and IMG for all their efforts and very much look forward to returning to Hainan in 2024."
When the coronavirus outbreak in China became global news in January 2020, the LPGA preemptively called off the Blue Bay LPGA before the pandemic caused sports and other parts of life to shut down.
The tournament also wasn't played in 2019 amid a reshuffling of the LPGA's schedule, meaning it will endure at least a five-year absence. Gaby Lopez of Mexico last won the event in 2018.
--Field Level Media
The LIV Golf member released a statement on the subject Tuesday night.
During the third round in Dubai, Reed's tee shot at the par-4 17th hole became lodged in a palm tree. Reed said he could identify it was his ball by using binoculars, which allowed him to take a drop under the tree for an unplayable ball, costing him one stroke but saving him from having to re-tee.
The DP World Tour confirmed the ruling in a statement. However, Reed perhaps responded to criticism from Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who posted a slow-motion video bringing into question the DP World Tour's call.
"Some people love controversy," Reed wrote. "But what happened on the 17th hole at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic was a non-issue. As the DP World Tour confirmed, I was not asked to identify the tree my ball struck (that was done by the ShotLink volunteers and several marshals), I was asked to describe the distinctive markings on the ball I was playing."
Reed ended up placing second to Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy at the event, which accepted LIV Golf members in addition to PGA Tour and DP World Tour players.
Reed began the week by flicking a tee at McIlroy while walking away on the driving range after McIlroy refused to shake Reed's hand. McIlroy has been among the loudest critics of players defecting to the Saudi-funded LIV tour.
McIlroy was asked his opinion of what happened with Reed's rules controversy.
"Had it been anyone else in the field it would have been a non-issue, but because of certain things in (Reed's) past, people brought some stuff up, which is maybe unfair in some ways," McIlroy said.
Reed has been accused of cheating or fudging rules at tournaments in the past, predating his affiliation with LIV.
--Field Level Media
Munoz is a one-time winner on the Tour, defeating South Korea's Im Sung-Jae in the Sanderson Farms Championship on Sep. 22, 2019. A native of Bogota, Colombia, he has played in 134 events, including six this season, most recently getting cut after the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open last weekend.
The 30-year-old Munoz is in the field for the Saudi International, which begins on Thursday. While the event is sanctioned by the Asian Tour, it is sponsored by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund -- LIV's Golf's primary source of financial support.
A number of LIV golfers join Munoz in the field, including Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.
LIV will open its second season on Feb. 24 at Mayakoba, Mexico, with individual and team competition once again being featured.
--Field Level Media
The report said the pairing had lost their "spark" and "chemistry" and that last weekend's split was amicable.
Martin was on the bag when Lowry won The Open Championship in 2019 at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
Lowry, 35, of Dublin, and Martin had been together since 2018.
Other notable finishes together included tying for third at the 2022 Masters and tying for fourth at the 2021 PGA Championship.
It has been a frustrating start to 2023 for Lowry. Two weeks ago at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, he entered Sunday with a share of the lead but carded a final-round 76 to finish nine shots off the pace. Last week he missed the cut at the Dubai Desert Classic.
--Field Level Media
Mickelson, 52, made the comments in Saudi Arabia ahead of the Saudi International, part of the Asian Tour, which is Mickelson's first tournament in three months.
Mickelson finished 34th or worse in five of his seven appearances on the LIV tour in 2022, the first season of the renegade series. He finished in the top 15 just once, leading to a 34th-place finish in the points race.
"I'm embarrassed with how I played last year," Mickelson said Tuesday. "I'm going to put that behind me and have a really good year."
Mickelson said he's down to his college weight, all part of an emphasis on his physical and mental approach to regaining the form that led him to winning the PGA Championship in 2021.
"I have to look at last year as an anomaly and just let it go," Mickelson said. "I wasn't ready to play at the start. I wasn't ready to play during. And this offseason, I'm ready to play. I've been playing really well at home, and I'm ready to bring my game back out here and compete. I'm optimistic to see a whole different outlook, a whole different game, a whole different competitiveness."
Mickelson plans to play in 20 or so events in 2023. In addition to the LIV's 14 events this season, Mickelson also carries exemptions to play in each of the four majors thanks to his 2021 PGA Championship title.
"I have a whole different energy, whole different excitement," Mickelson said. "I've been rejuvenated. Best shape I've been in in a long time. I'm back to my college weight. It allows me to recover faster after I play. I'm changing some of the ways I practice to be more efficient."
The 2023 LIV season begins Feb. 24-26 at Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
--Field Level Media
The reported request came as part of subpoenas that LIV Golf attorneys dished out to former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and past and present policy board directors of the PGA Tour. LIV sought communications between those parties "and any member of Augusta National relating to a New Tour, including but not limited to LIV Golf," per Golfweek.
Lawyers representing LIV Golf attempted to make a case that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Stephens Bank CEO Warren Stephens were pushing the Department of Justice to avoid investigating the PGA Tour. On Monday, though, Magistrate Judge Susan Van Keulen struck down the request in the U.S. District Court of Northern California.
"The cited documents do not implicate in any way the Subpoenaed Parties. Nor do they reflect communications by or between the identified additional targets," Van Keulen's ruling read. "Indeed, for the most part, the identified targets appear merely as names on lists or in other oblique references made by others.
"Any connection between an identified target and a Subpoenaed Party, based on the cited documents, is highly speculative."
LIV Golf attorneys accused the PGA Tour of illegally suspending players that were competing in LIV, with their most recent grievance surrounding the Tour's threats of preventing golfers from playing in the Masters.
However, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley fired back, confirming in December that past Masters champions such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed -- who are all currently playing on the LIV circuit -- would be welcomed to play in the 2023 Masters.
"We will invite those eligible under our current criteria to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament," Ridley wrote. "Regrettably, recent actions have divided men's professional golf by diminishing the virtues of the game and the meaningful legacies of those who built it.
"Although we are disappointed in these developments, our focus is to honor the tradition of bringing together a preeminent field of golfers this coming April."
Ridley did note that there could be revisions of the eligibility criteria.
--Field Level Media
Faldo, 65, made the comments in an interview with Sky Sports News.
"They're done," Faldo told the outlet. "It's a rival tour. If you work for a company for 20 years and you then leave to go to a rival company, I can promise you your picture won't still be on the wall. You've moved on. Fine, off you go.
"They made that decision and I'm sure they knew it was going to cost them," he added. "They were playing the maths game. They were getting a huge chunk of money up front, and they knew it was going to lose them sponsors, but they thought, 'I still win.'"
Faldo played in 11 Ryder Cups for Europe from 1977-97.
Faldo finds fault with LIV in general, complaining that the tour is "meaningless" and does nothing to grow the game and instead carries out an agenda that's "antagonistic" to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
"It's a closed shop: 48 guys given loads of money," Faldo said. "What gripes me is it's not growing the game of golf. That really gets me when they fly across the world to a country that's been playing golf for 100-plus years and say, 'We're growing the game of golf.'
"If they keep saying they want to grow the game of golf, go and take it to new regions. Countries in the early days of being interested in golf now. Try that rather than just trying to antagonize everybody."
A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Faldo retired from broadcasting in July.
--Field Level Media
"Documents produced by LIV reveal that P.I.F. and Mr. al-Rumayyan were instrumental in inducing players to breach their tour contracts," PGA Tour attorneys told the judge Tuesday in Federal District Court in San Jose, where LIV Golf filed its antitrust lawsuit against the tour last August.
"As set forth in the existing counterclaim, LIV intentionally and knowingly caused these players to breach their contractual obligations to the TOUR by misrepresenting TOUR contracts; inducing these breaches by offering highly lucrative contracts that make it impossible for players to comply with their TOUR contracts; and providing extensive indemnification and hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate LIV players for these breaches," PGA Tour attorneys wrote in the motion.
"Recently produced documents confirm that PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan played an active and central role in orchestrating these breaches for their own benefit and are equally liable for the harm caused to the TOUR."
The tour also claimed in the motion that the wealth fund and its leader had been "exercising near absolute authority" over the circuit, and that "PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan have personally recruited TOUR players, played an active role in contract negotiations, and expressly approved each of the player contracts-all while knowing that these deals would interfere with the players' TOUR contracts."
LIV attorneys have argued Al-Rumayyan provided only oversight to the project and the tour is exaggerating his role. In a sworn statement, Al-Rumayyan said the fund provided only "high level oversight" of LIV.
According to court documents, the PIF owns at least 93% of LIV Golf, which is controlled by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and governed by Al-Rumayyan, who is also the chairman of Golf Saudi and the English Premier League club Newcastle United.
--Field Level Media
It features the only Saturday finish on tour, along with players competing on both the North and South courses over the first two rounds. Our experts preview this week's event and provide their best bets.
FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN
Location: San Diego, Calif., Jan. 25-28
Course: Torrey Pines Golf Course (South, Par 72, 7,765 yards; North, Par 72, 7,258 yards)
Purse: $8.7 (Winner: $1.566M)
Defending Champion: Luke List
FedEx Cup leader: Jon Rahm
HOW TO FOLLOW
TV: Wednesday-Thursday, 3-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel); Friday, 3-5 (GC), 5-8 p.m. (CBS); Saturday, 2:30-4:30 p.m. (GC), 4:30-8 p.m. (CBS).
Streaming on ESPN+: Wednesday-Thursday, 12-7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 12:30-8 p.m.
--Lanto Griffin is making his first start on the PGA Tour since undergoing back surgery after the John Deere Classic last summer.
--Five-time tour winner J.B. Holmes (back) is making his first start since the 2021 Fortinet Championship. He is competing on a Major Medical Extension and has 26 starts available to earn 288.816 FedEx Cup points to retain his tour card.
--Tiger Woods holds the event scoring record of 22-under 266 in 1999, while Brandt Snedeker set the 18-hole record of 11-under 61 in 2007.
Jason Day to Beat Max Homa in Round 1 (-105 at DraftKings): Homa has a win and three other top-10 finishes in his past six starts. That spans back to the Tour Championship in August, as Homa teed it up only twice since October. He would seemingly be the stronger pick than the 104th-ranked Day, but remember that Day is a former winner at Torrey Pines who also tied for third last year. He struggles to put four consistent rounds together these days due to his balky back, but Day did start 67-64 before settling for a T18 last week.
Rahm In Final Group Final Round (+250 at BetMGM): Rahm is trying to become the first player to win three consecutive starts on the PGA Tour since Dustin Johnson in 2016-17, and he holds the longest active streak on tour with 21 consecutive made cuts. Did we mention his track record at Torrey Pines? His first PGA Tour win came here in 2017, he followed it up with a U.S. Open title four years later and has finished T5-2-T7-T3 in the past four Farmers. Rahm's 69.29 scoring average is the second lowest behind only Woods' 69.28 since the event moved to Torrey Pines in 1968. If he doesn't win, Rahm figures to be right in the thick of things come Sunday.
Si Woo Kim to Win Tournament Group (+300 at DraftKings): Will Zalatoris is the marquee "name" in this group, and the No. 7-ranked player is being offered at +250 as he attempts to build on last year's playoff loss to List. But it's Kim who boasts the most recent win, which came two weeks ago in Honolulu. Also in the group are J.J. Spaun (+330), Justin Rose (+330) and Keegan Bradley (+400).
--Rahm (+450 at BetMGM) has won his first two starts to open 2023 and has finished no worse than T4 in his past six starts worldwide. He also leads the FedEx Cup standings for the first time in his career.
--Xander Schauffele (+1100) is coming off a T3 at The American Express and is the second-highest ranked player in the field at No. 6.
--Tony Finau (+1200) is coming off a T16 - his eighth top-20 in his past 10 starts, which includes three wins.
--Collin Morikawa (+1400) tees it up for the first time since at runner-up to Rahm in the Tournament of Champions.
--Will Zalatoris (+1600) lost in a playoff to List last year for his second consecutive top-10 finish at Torrey Pines.
--Taylor Montgomery (+2500) continues to post strong results in his rookie season. His solo fifth last week was his second top-5 result and Montgomery has posted eight top-15s in his first nine starts.
--List (+8000) also has consecutive top-10 results in the event. He's trying to become the first player to successfully defend at Torrey Pines since Woods won four consecutive times from 2005-08.
--Field Level Media
The Spanish star, up to No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, is riding high entering this week's Farmers Insurance Open after winning each of his past two starts.
A win this week at Torrey Pines in San Diego, the site of his first PGA Tour victory in 2017, would make Rahm the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win three consecutive starts on tour.
"It is on my mind, obviously," Rahm said Tuesday before the tournament's unusual Wednesday start. "I've been reminded of it many, many times. And even more knowing where we're coming, right, a place where I've played so good at. I still need to go out there and shoot a very low score to win."
Rahm kicked off the calendar year with a come-from-behind victory over Collin Morikawa at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui. After a week off, he returned to the fairways at last week's tournament, The American Express in La Quinta, Calif., where he held off Davis Thompson to win his ninth PGA Tour title.
Rahm's body of work at Torrey Pines speaks for itself. His 2017 victory at the Farmers Insurance Open came in his tournament debut. After a 29th-place finish in 2018, he's been in the top five ever since -- fifth, second, seventh and third.
Oh, and Rahm's lone major victory, the 2021 U.S. Open, also took place at Torrey.
It fits his eye so well that Justin Thomas joked earlier in the day that Torrey Pines is set up for "whatever Jon Rahm's game is."
"If you consistently can drive it in the fairway on this golf course and far enough, you're obviously going to be able to be more aggressive than most people," Rahm said. "I think the main thing is predominantly for pretty much almost every hole, the proper miss is to the right, so that's why Tiger (Woods) has such success here. Sometimes if you miss the fairway by 5 yards or 100 to the right, it doesn't matter, just miss it right."
Amid the questions about his terrific form, Rahm said he's only focused on doing what he needs to do to prepare for another tournament. He will "step back" and appreciate it when the time is right. That doesn't mean he's taking his hot streak for granted.
"I'm aware very few people have been able to do this," Rahm said. "I saw some list, think there's only five or six of us to start the year with two wins -- Justin Thomas being the most recent one six years ago. I'm aware this is very rare and I appreciate it because if anything, it's a humbling feeling of how much work you need to put in to be able to do something like this because of the talent you have out there."
The Farmers Insurance Open will begin Wednesday and finish in prime time Saturday to avoid overlapping with the NFL's championship games on Sunday.
--Field Level Media
An affinity for Torrey Pines.
Woods has won an incredible seven times on the PGA Tour at the iconic San Diego venue, including four straight from 2005-08. He also recorded one of the most dramatic major victories in history at Torrey Pines when he was the 2008 U.S. Open.
Thomas? He removed the Farmers Insurance Open from his schedule after missing the cut in 2015, the first time he had played the event since joining the PGA Tour.
"I kind of struggled on the North Course, it wasn't really appealing to me," Thomas admitted Tuesday. "It's a good golf course. When I first played I struggled with the North Course, it just didn't fit my eye."
For several years, Thomas focused on the two-event Hawaii swing and Palm Springs to begin his year, skipping San Diego to provide a break in his schedule.
"I feel like I'm at a point now where I feel like if I didn't feel like I could win the golf tournament because of maybe the course or just given the situation in the schedule, there's just no reason to waste my time to go and that's just kind of how I felt," he said.
Thomas' view of Torrey Pines began to change when he arrived for the 2021 U.S. Open, which was played in June. He compares the South Course - which Thomas unabashedly prefers - to Pebble Beach, while he sees the North Course and its treacherously-narrow fairways to the Olympic Course outside San Francisco.
He went on to tie for 19th in the U.S. Open, eight shots behind Jon Rahm, who is building a Tiger-like resume at Torrey Pines. Still, Thomas came away from the tournament with a new-found respect for the venue.
"I quickly realized and remembered how much I like Torrey South and how great of a golf course it is and I felt like it was one that I needed to get to again," he said.
Thomas added the Farmers Insurance Open to his schedule last year. He tied for 20th and was in contention until going 73-74 over the weekend on the North Course.
"There's definitely a number of holes that are still difficult and maybe not totally comfortable to my eye, but I feel like with the changes, it's not a place that you need to go shoot 67 on, 66 to keep pace," he said. "It's a very challenging sneaky course and the fairways are very narrow.
"You may have a fairway that goes left and the fairway slopes right and if it's firm the fairways are damn near unhittable. There's really a good amount of pitch to them and it puts a big-time premium on driving."
Playing in Torrey Pines' favor is the tweaks many players are making to their schedules to focus on the elevated events along with the majors. Thomas returned home to Florida following the Tournament of Champions earlier this month, and has played in only three stroke play events since the Tour Championship last August.
It also doesn't hurt that the Farmers Insurance Open is the only PGA Tour stop that features a Saturday finish, which means Thomas can watch the NFL's conference championship games on Sunday even if he makes the cut.
"It was incredible, I got to watch football on Sunday," Thomas said of last year's Saturday finish. "I was ecstatic about it. Even so much so that I pushed the Tour that we do it during the entire (NFL) playoffs because I love football and I love watching football."
--Field Level Media
Ko missed the season-opening Tournament of Champions in Orlando, Fla., last week due to a wrist injury.
The 27-year-old South Korean owns 13 career LPGA victories, including two majors, the 2019 ANA Inspiration and the 2019 Evian Championship.
Ko won five times in 2021, including the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, but then earned just one title in 2022, prevailing at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore last March.
Ko was still ranked No. 1 in the world until she missed the cut in three tournaments and withdrew from another during a four-tournament span from August to November. She tied for 33rd at the CME Group Tour Championship while battling the wrist ailment and ended the year rated No. 4.
According to Golfweek, Ko is currently in Vietnam training with instructor Siwoo Lee. She reportedly will defend her HSBC title in Singapore following the Thailand event.
--Field Level Media
Pelley told The Telegraph of London that he, his COO Keith Waters and Monahan all told the OWGR board at its last meeting that they would sit out the LIV debate "because our respective legal counsel suggested we did." ESPN confirmed Monday that Monahan recused himself.
Instead, the decision will come down to representatives of the four major championship organizers -- Augusta National Golf Club, the PGA of America, the USGA and the R&A.
OWGR points are important to LIV defectors because they're one of several ways the major fields are decided. Facing indefinite PGA Tour suspensions, some LIV members have taken to playing events they're allowed to in Asia and Australia to keep their rankings afloat.
Without OWGR points, Dustin Johnson - the individual champion of the first season of LIV Golf - has fallen from No. 16 in the world last July to No. 44 this week. Patrick Reed ended 2021 No. 25 and has plummeted to No. 90 despite playing some Asian and European events.
And Bryson DeChambeau, who's been ranked as high as fourth in the world in his young career, currently checks in at No. 88.
LIV CEO Greg Norman previously called for Monahan and Pelley to recuse themselves from the OWGR board's decision because of a conflict of interest. Receiving rankings points would lend further legitimacy to the upstart series financed by Saudi Arabia's public investment fund, and Monahan in particular has spoken out against LIV.
"I have not looked at the LIV application, and I've not given my opinions on an application I've not seen," Pelley told the Telegraph. "So, as far as LIV goes, we are not involved in it and have no influence or say in what transpires."
--Field Level Media
The big takeaway from the schedule is that LIV's season-ending team championship is moving to Saudi Arabia - away from Miami - this year.
But the bigger spotlight is on Norman, who increases his role on LIV's executive team with managing director Majed Al-Sorour stepping down. LIV will not replace Al-Sorour.
"Majed Al-Sorour has been and will continue to be an invaluable part of LIV Golf, as he continues in his Board of Directors capacity," LIV said in a statement to Sports Illustrated. "As the business transitions into its first full season with a new broadcast partnership in place, the time is right for the Managing Director role to transition and for Majed to focus efforts and attention on other interests."
Norman's increased role is notable given the shots fired by Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. Both came out late last year advocating for Norman to step down -- or be fired -- if a path to working with the PGA Tour were to emerge.
The 14-event LIV 2023 begins Feb. 24-26 at Playa Del Carmen Mexico. The circuit's first U.S. tournament will be held in Tucson, Ariz., on March 17-19. Three tournaments will be held at Trump golf clubs - Washington, D.C. (May 26-28), Bedminster, N.J. (Aug. 11-13) and Doral in Miami (Oct. 20-22).
However, the season's final event - the team championship - will be played in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Nov. 3-5.
LIV golfers will compete for $405 million this season, $150 million more than the eight events in 2022.
The Boston event that debuted in 2022 is scrapped from the 2023 schedule. LIV is also not returning to Portland, Ore., this year.
LIV will also play an event in Orlando - new from 2022 - the week before the Masters. That will be held at Orange County National from March 31-April 2.
LIV last week announced a TV deal with CW Network.
--Field Level Media
Korda entered the tournament with 235 points -- 23 behind leader Lexi Thompson. She vaulted to 262 after the TOC, which Thompson did not qualify for.
While Korda remained No. 2 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings behind Lydia Ko, Thompson fell a spot to No. 7 behind Henderson.
The top seven players in the Solheim Cup standings will earn automatic spots on Team USA. Danielle Kang maintained third place in the standings with 212 points and is followed by Jennifer Kupcho (196), Andrea Lee (181), Lilia Vu (178) and Megan Khang (154).
The team will also include the top two players in the Rolex Rankings who are not already eligible, along with three picks by captain Stacy Lewis.
Nos. 8-10 in the current standings are Jessica Korda (148), Ryann O'Toole (122) and Alison Lee (116). Kang and O'Toole, who tied for 12th at the TOC along with Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, were the highest finishers among the eight Americans in the 29-player field behind Korda.
The team will be finalized on Aug. 28 following the CP Women's Open.
The 2023 Solheim Cup between Team USA and Team Europe will take place at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, Spain from Sept. 22-24.
Team Europe is currently led by Sweden's Maja Stark, who has 168.17 points following her tie for second at the TOC. Fellow Swede Linn Grant is second with 154.50 points, followed by Spain's Carlota Ciganda (88.75), Slovenia's Pia Babnik (88.00) and France's Celine Boutier (82.07).
England's Georgia Hall (76.63) vaulted to sixth place after tying with Stark at the TOC. She also made the biggest move in the Rolex Rankings, climbing four spots to No. 13.
Team Europe will comprise the top two players in the Europe Solheim Cup standings, the top four players in the Rolex Rankings not already eligible and six picks by captain Suzann Pettersen.
--Field Level Media
However, the idyllic start to the new year has failed to provide contentment for the former No. 1 player in the world.
What Rahm's victory earlier this month in the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, Hawaii, has done is to light a fire for what could be one of the best seasons in an already accomplished career for the native of Spain.
"To start 2023 with a win, let's just say it maximizes my opportunities to get as many wins as possible; it's a great start," Rahm said Wednesday. "I said it a few times too, I've seen a few players win that event and then go on a tear for a year. Like Cam Smith being the last one last year.
"So I'm hoping it's one of those (years) that can start properly and get a couple wins and hopefully a major in there."
If a hot start is what Rahm is chasing, he could not be in a better spot this week. He is set to begin The American Express in the California desert on Thursday, an event he won in 2018 when it was known as the CareerBuilder Challenge.
It was just the second win in Rahm's career, and his only one in 2018, but it enabled him to continue his current streak of one tournament victory in each of the last seven calendar years, with his 2023 win already in the bank.
Last year's visit to The American Express, played over three golf courses at La Quinta, Calif., was an interesting one for Rahm, when his comments between holes were captured on video and posted to Twitter.
Rahm, who finished tied for 14th place in 2022, bristled at the course's traditional setup, with dormant Bermuda grass outside of the fairways instead of rough. With hitting greens in regulation less of a challenge, Rahm was caught saying the week was akin to a "putting contest."
"Yeah, I'm thinking that last year's comments might come bite me in the ass, although it was more venting off on the golf course," said Rahm, currently ranked No. 4 in the world. "I think for me it's obviously a great event and it's got a lot of history with (Arnold Palmer's) legacy here as well. I've loved it every time I've come here, despite what I said on the golf course last year. That's just a player letting out some frustration."
Rahm, whose only major victory was in the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif., seems to be in a better mindset now. He has three of his eight tournament victories in California, including his first-ever win at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2017 at Torrey Pines.
Four of the next five events on the PGA Tour are in California and the U.S. Open is at Los Angeles Country Club later this year.
"I'm glad you have an event like this one to basically settle in," Rahm said. "Hopefully get another win like I did a few years ago and get the year started properly. Besides being a great event with a lot of history, it's a great way to test yourself and reaffirm what you've been doing."
--Field Level Media
One of only two Pro-Ams on the tour schedule, the event features five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Rankings: No. 2 Scottie Scheffler, No. 4 Jon Rahm, No. 5 Patrick Cantlay, No. 6 Xander Schauffele and No. 7 Will Zalatoris.
The 154-player field will compete across three different courses.
Our golf experts preview the event and provide their top prop picks and best bets to win this week.
THE AMERICAN EXPRESS
Location: La Quinta, Calif., Jan. 19-22
Courses: PGA West (Pete Dye Stadium Course Par 72, 7,158 yards; Nicklaus Tournament, Par 72, 7,147 yards; La Quinta CC, Par 72, 7,060 yards)
Purse: $8M (Winner: $1.44M)
Defending Champion: Hudson Swafford
FedEx Cup leader: Seamus Power
HOW TO FOLLOW
TV: Thursday-Sunday, 3-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel)
Streaming on ESPN+: Thursday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.
--Scheffler and Cantlay have mathematical chances to move to No. 1 after this week.
--Pros will be paired with an amateur and play a round at each course over the first three rounds, with the low 65 pros (and ties) playing the final round on the Stadium Course.
--Schauffele returns after withdrawing from the Tournament of Champions due to a back injury.
--The winning margin has been two shots or less every year since the event moved to a 72-hole format in 2012.
--Si Woo Kim is seeking to be the first player to win in consecutive weeks on tour since Tony Finau in 2021-22 (3M Open, Rocket Mortgage Classic).
--Brian Harman has top-10s in the American Express each of the past two years. His 26 top-10s on tour since the start of the 2017-18 season are most among players without a win during that span.
--Chad Ramey and Chris Stroud withdrew and were replaced in the field by Charley Hoffman and Dylan Wu, respectively.
--J.T. Poston has moved into the top 50 in world for the first time in his career.
--Swafford is ineligible to defend his crown due to a suspension for joining the rival LIV tour.
--Denny McCarthy Finish Higher Than J.T. Poston (+105 at DraftKings): Poston has reached the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time after posting three consecutive T21 finishes. He tied for 25th in this event last year - seven shots behind McCarthy (T6). McCarthy is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory but he did post five top-10s in 28 events last year. He's coming off a T32 at the Sony Open, where he did scuffle after opening with a 65 while Poston posted four rounds in the 60s to beat McCarthy by two shots.
--Chez Reavie (-150) to Beat Adam Long Round 1 (+100 at PointsBet): Both players missed the cut last year but we like the underdog odds on Reavie for several reasons. This isn't a bomber's event, which puts a premium on strong iron play and shorts games. Reavie did post four rounds in the 60s last week, when he finished one shot ahead of Long, who made the cut for the first time in his past four starts.
--Taylor Montgomery to Win Tournament Group (+330): Montgomery continues to rack up quality finishes in his rookie season, including at T12 in Honolulu that could have been much better if not for a third-round 70. Regardless, it was his seventh top-15 in nine starts this season. It's a strong group that includes Will Zalatoris (+260), Tom Kim (+275), Aaron Wise (+330) and Cameron Young (+350), but we like Montgomery's strong form over the past four-plus months along with a solid potential payout.
--Jon Rahm (+600 at BetMGM) won the event in 2018 and is coming off a victory in the Tournament of Champions. His streak of 20 consecutive cuts made is the longest on tour. The strong pre-tournament favorite, Rahm had drawn only 2.0 percent of the winning bets and 2.2 percent of the money at BetMGM as of Wednesday.
--Scheffler (+1000) held a share of the lead after the second and third rounds in 2020 before finishing third, and enters with three consecutive top-10 finishes on tour.
--Cantlay (+1100) has three consecutive top-10s in the event, including a runner-up in 2021. He holds a scoring average of 67.17 and has averaged 6.17 birdies per round in four previous event starts.
--Tony Finau (+1400) has three wins and six top-10s in his past eight starts, and has been backed by 3.8 percent of the bets and 4.3 percent of the money.
--Tom Kim is a two-time winner on tour at 20 years old and has risen to 14th in the world. He has been backed by the third-highest handle in the field at 7.1 percent, leading his odds to shorten a bit after opening at +2500.
--Zalatoris (+2000) finished T6 in his tournament debut last year, including a second-round 61.
--Mongtomery (+4500) is still seeking his first tour victory but his recent form isn't being ignored by the public, either. He is the second-biggest liability at BetMGM this week, having been backed by 8.3 percent of the bets and 9.5 percent of the handle.
--Cam Davis (+5000) is the sportsbook's biggest liability as he leads the field with 9.0 and 11.0 percent of the action, respectively. He finished solo third in the event the last time he played in the American Express in 2021.
--Sahith Theegala (+5000) is the third-biggest liability, having been backed by 6.7 percent of the tickets. Also seeking his first tour win, Theegala grew up in nearby Chino Hills. He tied for 33rd here last year and has three top-10s in seven starts this season.
--Andrew Landry (+40000) has missed 21 of 37 cuts over the past two years with only two top-10s in that span. However, he does have three top-two finishes in his PGA Tour career - two of them being a playoff loss to Rahm in 2018 and a win at the American Express two years later.
--Field Level Media
Alker, 51, won four times and finished in the top 10 18 times in 23 starts to capture the Charles Schwab Cup.
The New Zealand native also won the Arnold Palmer Award as the Tour's money leader ($3.54 million) and the Byron Nelson Award for the lowest scoring average (68.27).
The awards were presented Tuesday night at the Tour's annual banquet ahead of the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in Hawaii.
"I am very honored to be voted by my fellow peers as the 2022 PGA Tour Champions Player of the Year and to be in the company of past award winners," Alker said. "I have been inspired by being in the presence of so many amazing players and human beings since joining PGA TOUR Champions and for that, I am very grateful. I would also like to say thank you to my family, friends and fans who have helped make this possible."
Alker won the player vote over four other Player of the Year candidates: Padraig Harrington, Jerry Kelly, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Steve Stricker.
Harrington was named the 2022 Rookie of the Year.
--Field Level Media
The deal "will provide accessibility for our fans and maximum exposure for our athletes and partners," LIV CEO Greg Norman said in a statement on Thursday.
Nexstar Media Group, which purchased the CW Network, said the deal is a multiyear agreement but did not disclose financial terms. LIV events will air live and be available for streaming via the network's app.
The Saudi-funded LIV Golf Series was without a U.S. television deal in its initial season in 2022, streaming events on its website and on YouTube. As a result, the breakaway league struggled to reach mainstream audiences and discussions with other major networks, most recently FOX, never panned out.
The deal with the CW Network is unorthodox primarily because the network would be new to the sports world, a break from its typically teen-skewing lineup of dramas. But the Wall Street Journal reported Nexstar, the largest owner of local TV stations, plans a major overhaul of the network.
CEO Dennis Miller said in a statement Thursday that the deal represents a "significant milestone in our goal to re-engineer" the CW Network.
Norman said last week a U.S. television broadcast deal would be "crucial" and the next stage of growth for the PGA Tour competitor.
"We have a great platform that really should be shown to the world," Norman said. "When we go internationally, we are applauded and accepted and everybody wants to see us. So here in the United States, it was obviously a very critical point to our business plan to make sure we do get on TV and we will get on TV."
LIV broadcaster David Feherty hinted at the LIV-CW link on Thursday when he mentioned during an appearance in West Palm Beach, Fla., that the sides were in talks.
Norman, the front man of LIV Golf when it launched, helped the new circuit bring in such players as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Cameron Smith of Australia, Sergio Garcia of Spain and Lee Westwood of England.
After an eight-event opening season, LIV is looking to hold 14 tournaments this year, beginning with an event in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, from Feb. 24-26.
The CW has 220 affiliate stations in the United States. The network was recently purchased by Nexstar, with previous owners Paramount Global and Warner Bros. retaining minority stakes.
--Field Level Media
The outspoken Englishman said Tuesday that it's no guarantee he would play for Europe in the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome if he does manage to qualify.
"I would love to qualify. Whether I play or not would be a different thing," the LIV Golf player told reporters ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
"I certainly don't expect to get one of the six (captain's) picks. Not in any way, shape or form. Which is also a shame."
Poulter has played in seven Ryder Cups in his career, helping Europe win five. He has a 15-8-2 overall record in the event, including 6-0-1 in singles.
But his standing for this year's competition is in jeopardy because of his allegiance to the Saudi-backed LIV tour. The DP World Tour (formerly known as the European Tour) attempted to ban LIV players from competing in its events last summer, but Poulter and others won a temporary stay on that ruling.
A court case in Europe is scheduled for next month to determine whether the DP World tour can banish members of LIV. If they can, it would take players like Poulter and Spaniard Sergio Garcia out of the running for Europe's Ryder Cup team.
Sweden's Henrik Stenson was stripped of his 2023 European captaincy upon accepting a deal to join LIV Golf. He was replaced by Englishman Luke Donald, who has not answered what he calls "hypotheticals" about whether he'd add LIV players to his team.
Poulter got snippy with the official Ryder Cup Twitter account last week, pointing out that it hadn't acknowledged his 47th birthday or Garcia's 43rd birthday the day before.
Poulter said Tuesday he was "fighting petty with petty" with that decision.
"Through time I have said lots of silly things," Poulter said. "Should I have said it? Yes and no. All I did was highlight a fact. There was no other reason."
--Field Level Media
Johnson said the pick of Love III was a no-brainer due to his "unmatched passion" for the event.
Love III is a two-time captain for the U.S., including in 2016, a 17-11 victory at Hazeltine National Golf Club and in 2012 at Medinah Country Club. The 58-year-old played in the Ryder Cup six times and has been a vice captain for three previous events: 2010, '18 and '21.
"The Ryder Cup is one of the truly special events in all of sports, and I am so honored to be named a Vice Captain in Italy in 2023," said Love. "Zach has worked tirelessly since he was named Captain, and I'm ready to do whatever it takes to help Zach and the entire U.S. Team to win in September."
Last September, Love III was the U.S. captain in a 17.5-12.5 victory in the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club.
Love III joins Steve Stricker, who was named Ryder Cup vice captain in February 2022, with Johnson confirming his plans to name additional vice captains at a later date.
The 2023 Ryder Cup is Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Italy.
--Field Level Media
The tournament is this week in Orlando, Fla. After that, the 2023 season won't resume until Feb. 23-26 in Thailand.
Lee and Ko have not competed in the TOC in recent years and would need to play it this year to avoid being penalized under the LPGA's 1-in-4 requirement, which says players in the top 80 of the Race to the CME Globe points list must compete in each domestic event once every four years.
Ko had signed up for the TOC but withdrew, according to Golfweek. The former World No. 1 missed time at the end of the 2022 season to rest a wrist injury.
The TOC is only open to players who won an event on tour the previous year. The PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions have similar events to open their respective seasons. But only three of the top 10 female players in the world will be competing this week, with others also opting not to exercise their right to play.
If Lee and Ko accept the $25,000 fine for not playing the TOC and don't compete over the next two years, providing they're eligible, they are subject to an additional $35,000 fine, according to Golfweek.
Nelly Korda, Canada's Brooke Henderson and defending champion Danielle Kang will headline the field this week at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club.
--Field Level Media
The PAC works with the PGA Tour's Policy Board and commissioner Jay Monahan on issues affecting the tour and its players.
Members Maverick McNealy, Adam Scott and Kevin Streelman have been chosen to run for council chairman, with the election ending Feb. 13.
The council chairman will join the Policy Board, which is the tour's board of directors, next Jan. 1 as a player director, replacing Charley Hoffman when his three-year term expires. Other current player members of the board are Peter Malnati, Rory McIlroy, Webb Simpson and Patrick Cantlay.
Other members of the Player Advisory Council are: Ryan Armour, Sam Burns, Corey Conners, Brice Garnett, Brian Harman, Max Homa, Mackenzie Hughes, Shane Lowry, Keith Mitchell, Henrik Norlander and Will Zalatoris.
--Field Level Media
The 16 members of the council have yet to be announced for 2023, but Scott, 42, said he intends to help guide the PGA Tour's future.
"I'm more interested in what the Tour is planning on doing with the Tour and not how we're fighting a lawsuit," Scott said, referring to the battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. "I could care less about that, to be honest; I'm more interested in what the future of the Tour looks like. I convinced myself that it was worth diving into the PAC to see what was going on."
Scott, of Australia, was recruited by LIV Golf but chose to stick with the PGA Tour. He has 14 tour wins, including the 2013 Masters, and has $60 million in winnings.
Scott will bring a veteran's perspective to the group.
"I don't mind stirring the pot, if that needs to be stirred in conversation in those kinds of rooms," Scott told Sports Illustrated. "Just to let everyone think a little more. Sometimes I feel like, we get pretty reactive to things these days, and it's nice to think down the line a little bit. If we change this, what happens? And how soon will we then change it again."
--Field Level Media
He became just the second player in the past four years to fail to reach the weekend after holding a piece of the opening-round lead.
Chris Kirk, another of the first-round co-leaders, holds a one-shot lead at the tournament's midpoint. Kirk shot a 5-under-par 65 in the second round at Waialae Country Club, leaving him at 11-under 129.
The third first-round co-leader, Taylor Montgomery, is tied for second with J.J. Spaun at 10 under. Montgomery carded a 66 on Friday, and Spaun moved up with a 64, though he bogeyed his final hole when he had a chance to match Kirk for the overnight advantage.
Spieth, who opened with a 64, produced a 75 in the second round. He had one bogey and one birdie through his first four holes on Friday, then was doomed by a stretch of four consecutive bogeys on either side of the turn.
Spieth added one more bogey at No. 15 and couldn't make up any ground the rest of the way, finishing one stroke below the cut line. On the par-5 18th hole, he two-putted from 12 feet to finish with par when a birdie would have sent him to the weekend.
"Just a bad day," Spieth said. "Didn't feel like it was much different. Felt like I had a really bad deck of cards today. Made a couple ... bad swings from off the tee. Other than that, I didn't play that different. I just ended up a foot into the rough here, right behind a tree here. It was a weird, weird day."
Kirk began with three consecutive birdies, then bogeyed the par-4 sixth hole before adding three more birdies on the back nine.
Kirk, 37, owns four career PGA Tour wins, the most recent occurring in May 2015 at the Colonial. In 2019, he sought help for problems with alcohol abuse and depression, and he was back to playing a full schedule in 2021.
Following his Friday round, Kirk talked about the difference in his life on and off the course.
"I'm able to not judge myself for who I am as a professional golfer. I'm able to have my life as a person and my life as a professional golfer. Two completely independent things. I'm able to wake up every day and know that I'm doing the right things, that I'm working hard, that I love my family and I'm doing the best for them, and that's all that really matters.
"Whether you shoot 65 or 75 ... the 65s are a lot more fun, I won't lie. But it puts everything into the right perspective."
Montgomery's round include four birdies, one of them at No. 18, and two bogeys.
Montgomery credited his bunker play as a key to his round.
"I like the sand out here, I guess," he said. "It was really good. ... I had a few that the lies weren't that great and still managed to hit them close and get them up and down."
Spaun had seven birdies and 10 bogeys heading to his last hole of the day, the par-5 ninth. He knocked his drive into the water and eventually made a two-putt bogey that left him one stroke behind Kirk.
Canada's Adam Svensson shot his second consecutive 69 and made the cut on the number exactly thanks to a hole-in-one on the 175-yard seventh hole, his 16th hole of the day. He followed with two pars to remain in the tournament.
--Field Level Media